What the Best Do Differently with Dr. Ashwin Patel, Mental Performance Consultant & Professor

Ashwin Patel is a Professor and Program Coordinator for the Sport Management and Recreation and Leisure Services programs in the Faculty of Business at Humber College. He is also the co-founder of Sport and Wellness Consulting. Ashwin received his Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the University of Tennessee. Upon graduating, Ashwin spent seven and a half years as an Associate Professor in the Recreation and Exercise and Sport Sciences department at Western Colorado University. During his time there he worked with coaches and players in the Athletic Department. In 2014 he accepted a position as a Professor at Humber College.

Since 2003, Ashwin has provided Mental Performance Consulting to individuals and groups. His primary passion is working with hockey players. Since 2016, he has worked in this capacity with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. In 2017 he began providing mental skills services with the student-athletes at Victus Academy – a private hockey school in Kitchener. In fall 2019, he also began working with the Vancouver Canucks – with a focus on the AHL team in Utica, NY. In June 2020, he was selected to work with Hockey Canada’s U17 team.

In this podcast, Ashwin and Cindra talk:

  • What failure really means
  • How we can think differently like the world’s best
  • How to avoid having a $1 million dollar body and a 10 cent mind
  • Ways we can use “Release, Review, Refocus”
  • How the best are using COVID as an opportunity
  • What to do if you feel like someone “stole your confidence”

“Failure is just frequent attempts in learning and trying to figure things out.”- @Ashwin_J_Patel
Tweet Quote

“Regardless if it’s good or bad we gotta flush it and get back to being present.”-@Ashwin_J_Patel
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 “The best athletes will look at what other athletes’ do and try to take some of those things and put their own spin on it” -@Ashwin_J_Patel[/tweet_dis2]

“I think to be great at anything it takes pressure, so you have to kind of get uncomfortable and it just takes time.”-@Ashwin_J_Patel
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 “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, surround yourself with people that are going to be honest and will tell you the truth and then, put the time in.” -@Ashwin_J_Patel[/tweet_dis2]

Full Transcription:

Cindra: Dr. Patel. I’m so excited that you’re here, joining us on the High-Performance mindset podcast. So thank you so much for joining us today. I’m

Ashwin: I’m excited to be here. It was good having a couple of conversations in the last little while, and I’m just excited to be able to be a part of this.

Cindra: I am excited to talk with you more about what you do and just kind of dive into that and I know what the listeners are excited to hear you as well. So let’s just start off and tell us a little bit about your passion and what you do right now?

Ashwin: Okay, my passion like yourself, it’s helping individuals kind of reach their definition of success and whatever that may be. Whether that is in sport, which is primarily the you know the avenue that I work in, students and so in academia, as well. So students that work really hard to try to get a 70 and that’s their definition of success or business professionals as well. So my, my goal is to help individuals achieve the level of success that they are attempting to and then helping them find out roadblocks that may be in their way. And maybe faulty thinking and also positive things that they’re doing that they probably should be doing more because we tend to always focus on the negative things when we’re looking at our own self-awareness.

Cindra: So now that you found that people define success differently that you work with?

Ashwin: Absolutely. I think those individuals that feel pretty confident in themselves will define success in more of a process way because that’s just how we can you know that’s the one area that we can control some known, you know, the professional athletes that I work with will define it on securing the contract shooting certain numbers of from a goals scored save percentage things along those lines. And if they don’t reach that then regardless of their team success individually, they don’t feel that it was a successful season. But yeah, for some students, it’s passing a class, you know, maybe we everybody comes as you know as a professor that the number of times you have students that come in with varying academic abilities confidence can play a large role. And so my, my hope is that to help them obtain whatever measure of success that they want.

Cindra: Yeah, that’s great. I thought that you probably would give us some various examples of success and you’re living right now near Toronto in Canada so briefly tell us a little bit about you know how you got to where you are now?

Ashwin: Sure, yeah I’ll save you from having to pronounce it. Yeah, the city I live in is Guelph, it tends to get mispronounced often but yeah I live in Guelph Ontario, which is about 45 minutes south west of Toronto. I, how I got to where I am right now. It started out just like most of us. I love sports and that’s just what I did I immersed myself in sports, sports stats when I was a little kid. My mom and dad used to wake me up when they’d have their little parties and I would memorize the starting lineup of the Detroit Tigers in 1981 and go off Lou Whitaker, and Alan Trammell and then I would just go right back to bed. It was like a party favor, but I just found

that I loved it. I loved playing it. I loved reading about it. I loved watching it and eventually, you know, I started playing it quite a bit and I wasn’t an outstanding athlete. I was, I was a pretty good tennis player could have probably played Division one tennis from what colleagues of mine have told me, but you know in Canada. That just wasn’t really many opportunities, but the reality for me is that I i was really hard on myself. I, I didn’t, I didn’t really lose many tennis matches until I was 13 and I didn’t hit what people call puberty for a while. So I was rather small, and my friends all got bigger and they all adjusted and I didn’t know how to adjust at the time. I was pretty mature in my thinking. I just figured, well I was better than I should be better now, but I didn’t put the work in and so I was always fascinated by individuals. I met in high school that had the like the million dollar body but then had the 10 cent mind and then vice versa, someone that you looked at in your life. There’s nothing about this person that special, they were so gritty and hard working and resilient. I was fascinated by that. And so that led me to getting my undergraduate in psychology and history at the University of Guelph, which is about two hours away from where I grew up. And then after that I knew I wanted to do sports Psych I didn’t know where I was going to go to the University of Ottawa and then It came down to the University of Ottawa on the University of Tennessee and my parents at the time, you know, where we lived eight hours north was Ottawa eight hour south was Knoxville.

Ashwin: And my parents encouraged me, you know, you might as well go to the country where everything revolves around sport and a new experience. And so I was happy to do that. I was very fortunate to have a couple of really positive conversations with Dr. Krista Chandler Monroe, who is a professor at University of Windsor, a sports a professional and she provided a lot of insight for me things to consider, etc. And so I went to the University of Tennessee. You know, did my Masters and my doctorate there. And as you and I spoke about yesterday that was fortunate to come across so many amazing people both Dr Roseburg, and Dr. Fisher and then my colleagues Taryn, and Noah and Amy Kimball and Vanessa Shannon Duncan Simpson. There’s list can go on and on. Greg young and It was a phenomenal experience because it was one of the more collaborative working experiences just working with other people supporting each other. Both Dr. Fisher and Dr Roseburg gave us opportunities to teach, which I really like some of my colleagues went on the research side, I just fell in love with teaching connecting with students helping them out and so from there, I was fortunate enough I, you know, did some work with some teams while I was there, not with any of the university teams, but with some high school athletes and then a professional hockey team. The Knoxville I spares of the called the SP Ahl and then I worked with some professional motocross riders and all those experiences got me excited because I just like to say yes. And that’s something that for me, you know I again I didn’t know anybody. When I moved there. I didn’t. I literally knew only one person in the United States, and I just was like, I’m going to say yes to as many opportunities as I could and then being able to teach and kind of get feedback from faculty, like Dr. Fisher was great. She review my PowerPoints ahead of time and give me feedback. And then after the lectures would give me feedback as well. And I was really receptive to that. And I think that helped me grow. And that led me to getting a position I taught at after graduation I was able to get a job at western Colorado University. That’s what it’s called. Now, it was called Western State College. Back in the day, but yeah, it was a teaching University and Dr Roseburg actually saw the job posting called me into his office. He said, This is your job and confident in the sense that It was a teaching based school and it was going to be teaching a bunch of different subjects

and he kind of mentioned that you think you know you’ve, you’ve got a good knowledge base across a lot of areas kind of more of a jack of all trades on an expert. And I didn’t take that as an insult. I, I took that as a compliment. And so, yeah, I was fortunate enough to get a job there and earn tenure and was able to teach. I think 13 different courses there started to sports psych minor and then was lucky enough to meet my wife and my have our daughters, and then at

that point we just decided that we wanted to be closer to Family because that’s something that both her and I value, a great deal, and she’s from your home state. The beautiful state of Minnesota and so I was I was happy if this is where she wanted to go but we ended up moving to Toronto well to wealth and I took a job at Humber College in Toronto. It’s a about 25,000 20,000 25,000 students and yeah don’t regret it. It’s been an unbelievable experience we’re closer to all my siblings and all of my in laws and my nieces and nephews, which is really important for us. And now we can go to Minnesota hopefully again sometime soon. But yeah so that’s, that’s, that’s kind of taken me to where I’m at now, so I i actually taught sport management as well. When I was at college at the University in Colorado, and that allowed me to start teaching in the Faculty of Business now at the at Humber in sport management and recreation and leisure services and so it’s fascinating me I’m not really teaching sports psychology anymore that there’s a course that I created. But I’ve had other faculty teach it, and it’s but I, you know, get to do my consulting. Now, which helps kind of fill that void. Yeah.

Cindra: That’s wonderful. And I think about, you know, just all the names that you just mentioned, and people might not know those names, but they’re all doing incredible things in the field. So it’s pretty fun that you know we’re you’re able to really develop and get introduced to the field in that way where we see you know such incredible people. So Ashwin, Let’s like going to dive into a little bit about your work and your perspective. And I always ask people about tell us about a time that you failed and what failure is to you? And I want to ask you that question because there is a wide variety of definitions of failure which I think is interesting, but would love to hear yours and an example and this so that way we can learn from a difficult moment in your life as well?

Ashwin: Yeah, there’s a number of times I’ve failed it could take up your entire podcast and continue to do so, but I used to think it was not achieving one’s goal. That was my initial thought that that you set a goal. You don’t reach it. Then you’re a failure. I realized over time that that was really an outcome-based focus and over the years, I’ve shifted to think about failure in terms of like process growth opportunities.

Cindra: Yeah, okay.

Ashwin: For my dad and my mom and, you know, that was my two people I idolized you know growing up and all they asked was, that did you try your best. And then my dad was big on did you respect the game. And by that is, like, did you did you show good sports, you know, sportsmanship. Did you treat the game with respect and did you true like for us. It was like the for the family name like can you come off the court, you know, or the the field or whatever and say that you represented the family. Well, my dad never cared a dad was not an athlete. My

mom was my dad just wanted us to respect the games that were playing. Be respectful for the coaches your opponents, etc. And furthermore, did you have fun.

Cindra: Yeah.

Ashwin: And if I could answer those questions then regardless of the outcome, then that was a success. And, you know, as my wife and I, you know, as, as you know, as a parent, like you, you have these conversations about how we’re going to parent our children. Yeah. And we started coining like fail with the acronym like frequent attempts in learning. And so the FAIL stood for that. And I like that because then it’s a continuous process of trying to improve oneself. And that you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to screw up and my favorites. You know, I use this with the athletes I chat with is watching my daughter’s first learn how to walk and how we encourage as parents, and for those that are as coaches that really good coaches do this as well. You know you shape right they start acting in ways they’re standing up there on the road when you start clapping and getting really excited about them doing it. And you can see your facial expressions positive and then they fall down. But you never see a baby, you know, try it. They fall down. They’re like, No, I’m good. Like, because most people that have the ability to stand up are able to do so over time. So that notion of like failure. It’s just, it’s just frequent attempts and learning and trying to figure things out. And so that’s how I use it, both for myself, personally, as a parent, as a husband, but also as a, you know, as a professional in this in this field.

Cindra: Yeah, I like that. I think that’s helpful industry realized that, like we have to fail if we’re really learning and like a baby. We wouldn’t just give up. So why, why give up now when you said like you first defined it is like not achieving one’s goal and sometimes a goal is out of our control, you know, and I was thinking a lot about how when I feel like a fail. It’s time to rise didn’t go for it, like I held myself back in some way. Usually it’s like my own mindset or, you know, thinking that I can’t do it. You know, and so that’s what it really feels like a failure to me, but I like that, frequent attempts in learning. So I know actually do a lot of work in hockey and you help, you’ve assisted a lot of athletes to help them, you know, get to the major leagues and that’s impressive as I heard more about those stats. When you think about you, what do the best of the best do from a mindset perspective? Like, what do you think that they do differently that allows them to really thrive and I was thinking about what you said about in high school that maybe they have, like, you know, a million dollar body but a 10% mind. So what does it look like when you got up a million dollar mind?

Ashwin: Was, you know, it’s easy, it’s, it’s easy like because they are so driven. And I think they’re agile in terms of how they think and they are almost always like the some of the most elite people that I’ve worked with, they can’t they actually look forward to the challenges they embrace and acknowledge that these are going to this is going to be difficult or this is going to be challenging. And this is how I’m going to pivot. So they have like a mental plan for various what if scenarios that they that that arise during the course of a practice during a game, etc.
It doesn’t mean that they’re not frustrated. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have like anger bursts and things along those lines, but I think they do a much better job getting back to the present. Okay, really, they don’t sweat as much the things that they can’t control it is a

continuous search for a solution and sometimes it comes easier during certain parts of their game. So like certain goalies that I’ve worked with, they have a different way of kind of figuring out like you know ways in which they can become and get back to the presence and but it’s they’re dedicated to finding that edge. And I think that’s that unrelenting kind of desired for, you know, I know we use this quite a bit like the 1% games every single day as cliché as that may sound. I think that’s the way that a lot of growth can happen is that you just focus on can I win the day? Can I get a little bit better today? and even for, you know, can I be 1% better at meditating 1% veteran myself talk 1% better in my up being present and then they find that those gains will gradually come and understanding that it is a, it’s a, it’s a long process. Every elite athlete, it wasn’t all of a sudden, they’re like, I’m just going to be great. And then they’re just great. It takes a long time. And going back to the failure component that we talked about a little bit earlier, it’s learning from that you hear all the time. I had to learn how to lose before I learned how to win. Yeah. If you watched the last dance with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls they talked about that quite a bit that they learn from losing against the Boston Celtics they learned from losing against the Detroit Pistons, and then they were able to take those examples, work on the areas that they needed to improve upon and that they were able to then be successful like University of Virginia. The men’s basketball team was a great example of that. Right. The first number one seed in the tournament two years ago to lose in the first round. The next year, they came back and they didn’t run away from it. They didn’t shy from it. Tony Bennett got them to embrace that and I think that’s important that and that they’re willing to make tinkers and adjustments to their game in order to get better. That’s what I like the elite people I see it’s a continuous opportunity to learn. Yeah, and that’s in every field that’s like, you know, friends of mine that are CEOs. You know, police department chiefs things along those individuals that have that mindset, they’re successful because they’re just relentless on trying to get better and not just for themselves but to help other individuals.

Cindra: Awesome. I have some follow up questions on what you said Ashwin; So like when you’re saying that they do a good job of, like, getting back to the present. They don’t sweat the things that they can’t control. What are some of the ways that you see, you know, you gave an example of a goalie? What are some of the ways that you see like a goalie or just an athlete in general, get back to the present?

Ashwin: Yeah, it’s part of that is that is this helping like, you know, you make a great safe. Okay, that’s fantastic. But if you’re still thinking about that. Great. Save when the pucks dropped in the face offs in your own zone, it’s going to be difficult to be able to then be present. That’s the only thing that we can control. And so part of that is just like, what do we have in terms of a routine to kind of flush or let go of what has happened to return to the present. I know. You know, Dr. Ravizza talked about, like, you know, flushing the toilet, you know, I know that’s something that Adam, you know, Adam Thielen like your, your, your guy embraced and I thought that was a fantastic way of like we regardless if it’s good or bad. We’ve got to flush it then move back to being present. So that’s it. A lot of the hockey players, what seems to resonate with a couple you know with them is taking the water bottle. Okay, and you place your frustration in the water bottle and this is your release squirting the water bottle up in the air. You see the water droplets you can then as it comes down, then that’s your release. So then

what do I do next. Well, I take a deep breath. Now, whether it’s a box breathing or anything along those lines. And then they do a figure eight around the net or the for the skaters they’ll go back to the bench, they’ll do their release, whatever that may be. I don’t you know I kind of help guide them, but I’ll allow them to the freedom to choose what’s going to be helpful for them a slap of the leg kick off the bench of bank of the stick. You know, maybe a bad word under there under their breath and then it’s just a quick so that’s their release. And then it’s a quick review. And then it’s a refocus. You know, obviously, with an actionable behavior.That is on it and for the athletes, you know, to be able to kind of get back into the present is just when you’re an effect of hockey player. What is it that you do. Okay, well I move my feet really well. Okay, so, Ms. Move feet.

Cindra: Yeah.

Ashwin: Some of the players will put it on their blockers their gloves. The stick handle it really just is a personal thing for them. But if we’re just kind of using hockey examples that some of, those are some of the things that we do to help them kind of release and then get back to where it can actually have some form of a an influence on the game.

Cindra: Awesome. I think real, concrete examples. And if you’re a hockey player and I’d even if you’re just like, you know, I still consider myself an athlete, although I only compete in like running events right now and you know marathons.

Ashwin: I think you can call yourself an athlete. Yeah.

Cindra: I’m still saying, I’m an athlete right but even I have to let go of things that happen throughout my day and get back in the present. So this is a skill that you can use the matter what. But I really like these three-release review and refocus. Actually, do you think it matters if like the release is more negative in nature. You know, like a slap on this or like a swear, you know, like do you think it. Do you think it matters versus if it’s like something that’s positive?

Ashwin: I don’t think it really matters. And by the way, those three hours. I got from Dan Check. 2000 when I was doing my masters at University of Tennessee. He gave that to me. So I want to give him a shout out for that. No, I don’t because it’s for some individuals. That’s going to be the effective way for them to do it. And it may actually become more uncomfortable for them to like not kind of lean into that emotion. Sure, and then try to be like, I gotta be positive or whatever, like for some of the people like letting out a swear word here can be can be a release for them. Right. Slapping a thigh can be a beneficial way of then, as long as it’s helping them trigger to what do I need to do next. Sure. So as long as it says it’s leading to some sort of actionable behavior. That they can control. I think it’s okay. Now, if it’s continually happening. And then the ability to be able to get back into the present is delayed then that might be a conversation to be able to say, is this working for you.

Cindra: And is there released like does that really. I mean is that a review, like you look back and you see what you need to do differently or what’s the review?

Ashwin: The review could just be simply, you know what, I didn’t move my feet or I cheated I cheated. I thought I was going to get the puck and instead of paying attention to the person I’m supposed to be defending or the area of the ice that I should have been I was elsewhere. And so again it’s non-judgmental. It’s just kind of stating if someone was watching this on video and you see this now more in hockey, like you see Sidney Crosby. After a shift. He goes immediately to the bench and he goes right to the tablet or whatever the device that they have. And he looks at his shift. The running joke is, is he going to have a drink of water first, or is he going to look at his at his iPad. And often, as the iPad and then he looks to see what a shift happened to review. You’re not to beat himself up but like maybe to gain some more other information.I you know what this is what they’re doing now they’re putting an extra person higher up you know to force the defenseman defense woman to make a pass across the ice, whatever it may be.

Cindra: Yeah.

Ashwin: The review is something relatively quick and it’s, you know, one to two things because, you know, do they have that mental plan when they hop over the boards and that’s when I said with the refocus sorry released the review of the refocus. The refocus from when I work with the athletes, it’s often like what are the one to two things that you can control every single time that you’re on the ice. Yeah, well I escaped hard I finished my checks I communicate well to my defenseman Oh my, my D partner or make sure that I back check whatever it may be. What are the actual behaviors that they do. And then when they get back to the bench, then it can be well did you evaluate yourself on those two things. And then it just starts kind of taking away a lot of those other elements that you can’t really control. You know this. Like you could have had you could have had the best race like plan. Right. But then the weather is off or you get bombed early or for whatever reason. Like, you may have to stop to use the restroom and all of a sudden you’re like, well, my plan was fantastic. There’s things that are just going to happen. During the course of the, you know, a race of performance, etc. It’s just about getting you back to the one to two things that you can control is something I really tried to focus on with the people that I work with.

Cindra: Awesome. I really liked that release review refocus and you were talking Ashwin, about how the best athletes can pivot there and trial and I’m thinking about this during this time of coven there’s so many raised reasons and ways that we need to be agile. So how are you seeing some of the athletes that you work with, how are they pivoting and adjusting and how are they adapting to cope. And just like the lack of opportunities, even in sport right now?

Ashwin: It’s challenging you know for some as well though. It’s also a welcome to break not for the last five months. Mind you, but at least for a couple of months. Some of these individuals. This is all they’ve been doing for 15 to 20 years and they’ve never had this long of an extended break. So part of it is like asking them to lean into it like what, haven’t you been able to do you know you’ve been playing professionally overseas or maybe you know your significant other is staying in the home province or the home state while you’re playing and in New York. What have you been able to do. Well, we haven’t been able to watch movies we haven’t been able to

go for walks, we haven’t been able to do whatever. Okay. It’s now that time to reconnect. Yes, reconnect with your significant others reconnect with your parents reconnect with some of your friends. Maybe there’s a course that they wanted to work on. Maybe there was some yoga or something along those lines that they felt that they could add to their repertoire and to become a maybe a more mindful athlete or a maybe a more relaxed or stronger, whatever it may be and to use that as an opportunity like what they haven’t prioritized. And so some of the teams that we’re working that I work with. We spent the last three months doing team building culture like the mental side, you know, for some individuals as the spiritual side, you know, for. And I think that’s an important area. I’m sure you’ve experienced this in your work with teams like there’s always the best intentions for the mental performance consultant to come in, but then things tend to get in the way. And you now center. We would love to have you in today. But we have to do this now and so what and when I’ve been talking with the coaches in the in the general managers of teams like let’s use this time. The players aren’t on the ice. Let’s focus on our culture, what are our values as an organization, what do we value and are we are our behaviors aligning with our with our values and when we bring other people in like let’s spend the time on leadership development. Let’s spend some time on like really getting to know teammates and then setting the standards as to what’s going to be acceptable and what’s not going to be acceptable. I know urban Meyer has come up with the above the line below the line John Herdman, who is brilliant, the National men’s soccer coach for Canada has used that concept of, like, what are the behaviors that we’re going to be that are going to be acceptable having the players and what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable for a meeting time what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable for living with bullets for hockey young hockey players that are living with other families and then they can have those conversations, as you know, is a big one phone use in the locker room. What’s going to be acceptable and what’s not going to be acceptable and once everybody has the conversation and the dialogue and we agree upon it. Then it’s a little bit easier to move forward and it’s similar to what you know Josh refracted when he was with the Chicago Cubs and the other NPC is they kind of came up with that. Like that’s come like the sea for courage. The you for urgency in the before belief and all of a sudden, then it just started kind of catching up. My kid that’s couple. You didn’t run out a you didn’t run out a ground out. Well, that’s not cup. Right. So for us it’s an opportunity to be able to see areas that we can improve on. Where can we make those marginal gains until we’re actually back physically together with each other.

Cindra: I think that’s a great point, actually this is a time where as a team. And no, no matter what sort of team, you are you can step back and really think about what is the culture, our behaviors aligning with that and what, how can we best use this time to develop ourselves with its leadership for the mental game. Is there a topic, you know, when you think about your work with teams? Is there a topic that you kind of see yourself or hear yourself like saying over and over again, you know, What would, what would you say is one of the topics that you hear yourself talking about a lot?

Ashwin: No, that’s, yeah. It’s just how the last five months for some of us may be like Groundhog Day that fantastic Bill Murray movie in the early 1990s. Yeah, the one of the main things that I hear quite a bit is well confidence. Yeah, and it’s tends to be someone stole it. I had

it. Now, somebody and I always like, I’m trying not to be sarcastic on your podcast but I tend to be sarcastic with some of the athletes that I work with, I was I was it like you had a wallet and somebody took it from you. Right. No, no. Well, that’s not the case. And, you know, the, you know, Dr. Revisit you are you that poor have an athlete that you have to feel good to play good no, but I think that’s one and confidence is one where for a lot of individuals. So, for example, one of the teams that I work with, which is the main feeder league into the NHL, so about between 40 to 60% of all NHL players come from the Canadian Hockey League. So I work with one of those respective teams and it’s a challenge for a lot of individuals that are 16 so 16 is the age that they come into the league, unless you’re exceptional then you’re at 15 but almost all or 16 and they’ve all been used to their entire playing career being the best player on their team. And not unlike you know the star high school athlete when she goes to a university and all of a sudden is not getting the playing time. The thought is, well, you know, I, my confidence is gone because I used to get 20 minutes of ice time and now I’m getting three. I can only help out the team if I’m scoring goals. And so I really help. I try to challenge them on. So are you saying the only reason that you’re worthwhile on the ice is because you score goals? Well, no, no. I mean, what else do you do well. Well, I’m pretty good at faceoffs okay so if you’re going to only get three to five shifts the game right now is a 16-year-old, which is not uncommon. There are people that are making millions of dollars in the NHL that played two to four minutes, their first year in the Canadian Hockey League. Sure, it takes time to kind of grow, but where are those areas where you can strengthen your confidence. Well, I think I’m pretty good at faceoffs okay the monsters focus on your face offs like what, you know, what is it, what does it take to have a good face off like mindset. What do you do and while I got to make sure that my hands are nice and low that I’ve got a good wide strong base, so they kind of go over those things. Then once we start going over those areas that they can start to control and they can build up right they can build up their confidence. And then it’s capable watch other people that are really good at it. Or what else can you do well. I’m pretty good at, you know, finishing my check. Okay. So how about we build our confidence on those areas because you know the other example that I’ll give is that how many times have you played where you’ve made the best shot. You’ve taken the best slap shot Rashad etc. And then it just gets deflected by a defense person stick or the goal is able to use their blocker and knock it away. Well, yeah, that happens. Okay. Did your confidence go down. Well, maybe a little bit because I just thought I can score, but the reality is that we can’t control all of those things, right, the outcome is never really going to be determined not all the time. So we have to build up our confidence and things that we can actually control, can you be confident in your ability to play five shifts in a game in which you are focusing on one to two things, and if so fantastic. So that is kind of an area so confidence is one big one. The controllable and the uncontrollable that’s another really really big one, where we’re focusing our attention on where we’re giving our energy that seems to be one. Here we, you know, especially when they’re younger. It’s the focus is on. Well, it’s the coach’s fault. It’s my sticks fault it is my you know the game plan various things. And once we kind of come up with what are some things that you can control what are some things that you can’t know, and there’s no sense spending any more time on the on the uncontrollable. Let’s just put our time in the in the things that we can control and then the most recent one. And I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do some stuff with hockey Canada over the, over the summer. It’s this focus on self-awareness, really just kind of delving into that. Again, non judgmental just kind of

understanding your thoughts and your behaviors and how that influences how you perceive the world. I think that has been really interesting, like, are you aware of your body language. That’s a massive thing with youth athletes is just the they always want to look good. But then not recognizing that, what are they putting out there to the opponents are your shoulders slump. So your, your head down. Are you aware of how you communicate with your teammates when they make a mistake. Are you aware of how you receive feedback from a coaching staff. Are you aware of your mindset and your ability to kind of adapt when you experience an injury. And so I think that has been something that has been a focus for myself and with a lot of teams recently has just been that, how do we increase individual’s ability to become self-aware and doing that, even with five year in grade five or fifth graders. Yeah.

Cindra: That’s fine.
Ashwin: I’ll take cooked spaghetti. Cindra: Yeah.

Ashwin: And I’ll have them and they’ll throw it against the wall. And then I’m like, Okay, so when you are like relaxed and kind of in the moment you can adapt accordingly. Right. But, and so you’re kind of like cook spaghetti. But when you are tight, and when you are nervous and you’re thinking about failure or other things you’re brittle in your thoughts, your Biddle in your actions. You can’t really move all that well, you’re not very pliable. So the uncooked speed Getty. So the little kids that works. And it’s funny, good and some of the older guys are some of the older women to are like, can we do that. I’m like, Well, no, that’s for the kids, but yes. But no, that’s another one that I think can be really helpful is just increasing their awareness, because that can go for so many other things in life right like that’s one of the things I think that you and I love doing what we do is that this isn’t just sport. Like, hopefully these are tools that they can become better significant others better parents’ better employees leaders in the industry or whatever industry that they’re in better like people that will follow as well.

Cindra: Absolutely. I think about even for myself. I’m still increasing my own self-awareness of me. Right. And I’ve been, you know, I just think about we do this work and there’s this, you can always continue to improve. So confidence controllable self-awareness. I was thinking about, you know, at the beginning, when I asked you this question. You said, or someone stole my confidence. It’s like that statement is really interesting because it’s like well confidence is their responsibility, not mine, and that you know we really do have the power on If we let someone else steal it or not.

Ashwin: That’s a great point.

Cindra: To us, and I know even just what you said about like really good athletes who play pro and go professionally, they still lack confidence, sometimes. So, you know, I think for us to think that it’s not something that we have to nurture, I think is unrealistic. So is actually, can you tell us about a unique way that you might share or describe the mental game or teach the mental

game. Besides, like this Getty idea which by the way I once heard about this from Terry Orlicks work. What he was teaching athletes about oh, actually it was cancer patients using a relaxation exercise with young cancer patients. And he was there’s like this this audio I have like, picture your body like I’m a cooked spaghetti noodle.

Ashwin: Getting it all. Okay.

Cindra: So I should share it with you.

Ashwin: Please do. I would love that.

Cindra: And so it doesn’t just relate to athletes. Right. I was thinking about how we use it with cancer patients, but tell us about a unique way that you might teach them at the game?

Ashwin: So one way I can. I like to do a lot of applied activities and I’m fortunate enough that I can I attend you know the teams that I work with their practices and we can actually kind of engage in some fun activities to actually bring about some of the physiological reactions they might otherwise experience, experience when they’re playing one of the ones that I found to be pretty helpful. And you know, I give credit to Dr. Amy Kimball who, you know, worked with the penguins when they won their last two Stanley cups and now is the, I think the director of player development for the New Jersey Devils. She’s in graduate school. I think it was like 2003 gave me a healing imagery script and it says fantastic document and it really just kind of outlined in injured area of the body and then through you know, breathing you breathe in through the blue YOU BRITT, you know, I mean, so you breathe in the red and you exhale out. The blue, but what I thought was really interesting and how it kind of modified it a bit is that I started incorporating the athletic trainer. The, the team physician from that for the correct terminology. So we started coming up with this healing script. So, you know, I’ll give an example, one of our star athletes on our team. A couple of years ago he sustained a broken collarbone and was out for a while, and he gave himself a day to feel bad for himself. But then, afterwards he texted me and I was just like, how you doing, he’s like, I’m fine. I’m ready to get back to work. Okay, so I we came up with the healing script and again. So, you know, we took a picture of the broken collarbone. And then we took a picture of the healed collarbone. And I had again. I had to ask my father, you know, back in the day about what’s the correct terminology was with his medical background and so was able to then take that script. And have him. Imagine himself again slowly healing. Right feeling the ligaments around the joint kind of kind of merging together kind of strengthening and whatnot. And he would sit down and read the script and then we recorded as well so that he had the audio. So he would kind of sit down and kind of see that area slowly healing and then we started implementing and adding other aspects of it. So then it was like, now I want you to imagine, you know, a couple like when the doctor said okay it’s okay for him to now start thinking about maybe getting hits again. So then we started imagining, you know, putting his equipment back on going on the ice and then absorbing hits and recognizing that you know his shoulder has never felt better. It felt strong we were able to kind of incorporate that. And then while we were doing that. He said, I should I kind of want to do more. Now again, this I love this young man because just the his mindset of

just like unwillingness like just willingness to kind of get better. And so then what we started to do. I said, Well, let’s start thinking about while you’re injured. What are some things that you could be working on, like, so that when you step back out on the ice. Then you’re going to be confident in your ability to get well. I want to start working on my faceoffs like okay so we got our video person to just get five minutes of his best faceoffs and various scenarios. When you’re trying to win when you’re trying to lose when you’re trying to tie up

Ashwin: The opposing Snyderman to so that your winners can get the puck all of these different scenarios. So then he started kind of imagining himself. All those scenarios and what God was like the one big term I love to use the you know the psycho neuromuscular theory. It’s one of my favorite theories to use just because I like the big word. But just, it, it’s, you know, when you vividly imagine an event your muscles fire at almost the same rate as physically doing it. And for him that God He loved it. So he’s like, okay, so if I just imagined myself doing some of these things that can be helpful. And so he took that to the next degree. Then he said, I want to get a bunch of like my best shifts and it wasn’t the shifts that he was necessarily scoring goals. It was shifts that he was blocking pox was just in good position around the ice making good passes. Whatever the case, and obviously some of the highlight goals. And so then he started watching those videos over and over again and then kind of closing in his eyes, and then seeing himself, do it. And then he added it once his conditioning was able to start ramping up even more. He started sitting on a bike. And we had like 30 minutes of his best shifts and he would go on the bike, because he also knew what his heart rate was like when he was on the ice. And he would start mimicking each he pedal as hard as he could, so that his heart rate was at the same kind of level as when he was actually physically skating. And so he was able to do this over time. And then the cool part of the story. Was that he was able to return for the playoffs. So he did see she sustained three different injuries that season. He came back in the playoffs and it’s game two. And it’s us against the number one seed and a team that we ultimately ended up defeating on to win the championship. But there were 19 players on the ice that game that were NHL draft picks up but on both teams. He was the best player on the ice that game, which, again, the first time him playing a game and over two months. Wow, that number of individuals and he felt like ash. I just, I knew instinctively what I wanted to do. And he used that imagery healing script and all the credit goes to that young man for doing it. But he just was all in so it’s something that being able to kind of tailor that to other athletes that I work with, and then using the resources of the really bright athletic therapists and the physicians to get the terminology correct and the actual images of injured and healed areas have, I found that to be really, really helpful. So again, thank you again for Amy passing that along to me and for that athlete to be so, so excited to be able to use it.

Cindra: So what a cool story of, like, actually how imagery and these different types of imagery really help him. What did he say, you know, when you think about like how did he report. Like, why How was he able to be so confident back on the ice. Because sometimes athletes can, you know, get injured and then they hesitate when they get us on the S or the field. So what did he report was like their benefits of the imagery?

Ashwin: Well, what helped was that it was kind of constant communication between the physicians and, you know, and this athlete myself or athletic therapist.And he placed his trust in

the medical staff and once the medical staff said you’re ready to to receive some physical contact. He leaned into it. And so we asked a couple of the guys on the team. I wanted to hit me like not take me out. But I want you to, you know, if I’m going to play. I need to be confident that I can absorb a hit. And once he was able to see it, he’ll like when he was physically able to get like the you know the MRI that showed that he was healed.

Cindra: Sure.

Ashwin: Then everything was okay because he had done all the work, and he had known in his mind that the ligaments were going to get stronger, the muscles around that area. We’re going to help support it. He felt ready to go. And I think that was what I was so excited about about that, but he just, he was very determined he knew what he needed to do. He got the timeline about you know best case scenario being being healthy and then he was able to to play.

Cindra: Cool. Awesome. Well, what a great example of like a really applied example of how somebody uses imagery and use it to it to be it as fast as you, Ashwin, a couple questions, and then we’ll wrap up. So when you think about just being successful in this field in general, what do you think it takes to be successful?

Ashwin: Right. I think like with everything it’s it’s it’s work it’s putting in the time. I think it’s also being or showing enough humility that we don’t need to know everything, and that you want to surround yourself with other people that are going to bring you up like I know that you visited I am geez campus. I know you know i i go there. I take our students there every year with no again earned it’s you know there’s eight to 10 people there. That are mental perform. I don’t know. There are places in the world that have more people in one location, but they talk about this all the time about this to sharing knowledge and it’s not about being like the one person that has all the secrets. It’s about that collaborative kind of effort and for me. I’m a big believer in that I think I’m pretty good at what I do, but there are millions of people out there that are more intelligent than I am and have better experiences. So why wouldn’t I want to learn from those individuals. Right. The best athletes will look at what other athletes do and try to take some of those things and then put their own spin on it. And that’s something that I tried to do as well. You know, Vanessa, Shannon. She’s my she’s since I’ve known her. She’s the number one person. I go to. I have any questions I have doubt I have like, I think I’m going to try this. What do you think, and she’ll give me the honest feedback. This works. I think he might want to try this. Have you thought about this author, I don’t. She reads more than anybody else that I know. And so having those individuals around me. I’m very fortunate to be again coming from the University of Tennessee having those great faculty and mentors and my colleagues and my classmates, like I even mentioned the Linda fray and Camille Rex and so many other fantastic people that we could bounce these ideas off each other. And I think that’s what’s really exciting. And just to be okay with putting stuff out there you see recently like Lauren Johnson, who works with the New York Yankees Hannah Huesman who’s working with the Phillies both of them are phenomenal. Nicole Gabbana who’s doing some work now at the University of Massachusetts athletic department. These three fantastic individuals are just putting out great content and they share their, their open and transparent like they have a lot of takes when they

do it, but it’s just, I’m going to try stuff. I’m going to converse with other individuals. And I’m going to be my most authentic self. And I think that’s where those people that have done really well. We’ll do it and just, you know, my favorite movie of all time is The Shawshank Redemption. It’s nothing to me is, is as good as that movie. But one of the things that I love a lot of the quotes I love but You know, Morgan Freeman’s character read said, you know, geology is the study of pressure and time. To be great at anything. It takes pressure. So you have to kind of get uncomfortable and it just takes time. And I think if we take that mindset and recognize that you know, it may take a while to get where we’re, we’re at, you know, for my intro class I taught. Last week I created an infographic timeline. And I showed, like I was born in 1975 my first job in sport was 1992 I was 16 and a half years old the tennis instructor and I showed the timeline of all the different jobs. And all the times that I said yes to opportunities to where I’m at now in 2020 right so you’ve got 28 years in so many times. I think we can get caught up of, well, this person is working with this team and they’re only, this year, you know, this age group, and they’ve only been out of the academia for two years. I think that’s when we get in trouble. I think the people that are really successful, they’re not spending much time worrying about what other people are doing right they’re just doing and they’re collaborating with other people that are also just doing. And that, I think that goes across any industry is surround yourself with people that are smarter than you surround yourself with people that are going to be honest and will tell you the truth. And then put the timing and don’t be afraid to make mistakes like key. If you can lean into, like, I’m going to make mistakes. And you’re honest and transparent with the population you’re working with, you know, I’ve said this to like teams. I’ve worked with, Hey, I’m trying something today. Let me know. Like, you know, know that I have my best intentions when I’m trying this and sometimes they’re like sometimes, like, don’t we, kind of like that. That was kind of fun.

Cindra: I think the advice that you just gave really fits with every profession Ashwin:, you know, like surround yourself with good people have people that you can call but put yourself out there. And also, like, I heard like this abundance. Right. And I think sometimes, particularly in our field. It’s like, maybe we do get so siloed because we don’t believe that there’s an abundance. But I come from the belief that and the more I’ve adapted in my life. The more successful, to be honest, I’ve been it’s like you know there’s opportunities everywhere Instead of that, it’s limited. So, Ashwin, thank you so much for joining us today. What is a way that people can reach out to you or tell us where you are on social so that as people are listening. I know that they’d love to reach out to you about today’s episode. So how might they do that?

Ashwin: You can reach me at so I my website. It’s sportandwell.com so Dr Know, again her and I who, again, I went to graduate school with 20 years ago we created a websites.And the partnership we both teach at Humber together kind of a fun small story, but yes, sportandwell.com is our website. I can be reached at Ashwin@sportandwell.com

I’m on Twitter. And I’ll be honest, I always tend to forget what my Twitter handle is, but I can send that to you. I think it’s oh it’s at Ashwin_J_Patel.


Ashwin: But yeah, I’d be happy to have any answer any questions that any of your listeners may have

Cindra: Awesome. And I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes. So you can wherever you’re listening scroll up like on your phone. If you’re listening on Apple podcasts and it’s right there. Ashwin, so I am going to attempt to summarize what we talked about today. Oh, we talked about how you really help people move towards their definition of success. And then we talked a little bit about how people’s definitions of success are different. We talked about failure in your perspective is like frequent attempts and learning and then it used to be like not achieving your goal. I thought that was really helpful. I thought, well, we are talking about what the best of the best do and we, you know, you’re kind of describing that they’re so driven but agile, they’re always looking for challenges and they can pivot, but they get back to the present moment. Focus on what they can control. So just this idea of like continuous learning and improvement we talked about three R’s release review refocus. I thought that was really awesome and just you gave us some examples it you know it, particularly in hockey. I thought that was really great. And at the end when we’re talking about, you know, confidence, someone stole your confidence and just the controllable and this idea of self-awareness. So I’m so grateful that you spent some time today and you shared your wisdom with us. So thank you so much for joining us today on the podcast.

Ashwin: I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. It’s always a pleasure. Cindra, Thank you so much.